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Auction 14: Americana

Lots 23 & 24: Texas Land & California Missions

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23. GALVESTON BAY & TEXAS LAND COMPANY. Ornately lithographed land certificate with two cherubs reading at top right, ornate decorative sidebar at left, untitled map at lower left of southeast Texas with Company lands indicated by shading (6.5 x 10 cm; 2-5/8 x 4 inches). At lower center: E. S. Mesier’s Litho.; certificate completed in manuscript, lithographed text commences: Galveston Bay & Texas Land Company No. [12041] This certifies, 177-136/1000 Acres. That the Subscribers as the Trustees and Attorneys of Lorenzo De Zavala, Joseph Vehlein, and David G. Burnet, have given and do hereby give to [J. R. Poinsett] and h[is] legal representatives the bearer hereof, their consent to the location of, and holding in severalty, One Labor of Land within the Limits of Four Adjoining Tracts of Land in Texas.... New York, October 16, 1830. Signed in ink by company officers Anthony Dey, W. H. Sumner, G. W. Curtis, and W. H. Willson, endorsed on verso by bondholder J. R. Poinsett. 1 p., folio, printed on onionskin paper. Thin strip of modern white mat board pasted to verso at top. A mid-twentieth-century display card with the note “A nice piece of real estate” accompanies the certificate. A fine, desirable copy made out to and signed on verso by Joel R. Poinsett (1779-1851), whose relation to Texas and Mexican history grew chiefly from his instructions to buy Texas from Mexico while he served as first U.S. minister to Mexico (1825-1829). This earned Poinsett the enmity of Mexican authorities who forced his recall. Poinsett did not acquire the desired choice chunks of real estate, but instead received the consolation prize of having the Mexican poinsettia plant named for him. Poinsett left his ill-fated post as U.S. minister to Mexico in January of the same year as this certificate. It would appear that Poinsett was determined to buy some Texas land, one way or another, but his hopes would not be realized. See DAB and Handbook of Texas Online (Joel Roberts Poinsett).

    There are several versions known of this imprint and no priority has been assigned. See Streeter 1117, who documents the certificate for one labor of land (as here), whereas copies exist for one sitio of land. There are also variations in the method of printing and other details. The present certificate is lithographed rather than engraved; at the lower center is the inscription E. S. Mesier’s Litho. (not present on engraved copies); variances occur on the map, e.g., here the names for the Brazos and Navasota Rivers have been moved further right; the line border on the right is not so sharp as in the engraved version; the date in the last line of the present version reads 16th. October 1830, whereas in the engraved version, the date appears as 16. October 1830; etc.
    An unusual feature of this land certificate is its attractive miniature map of southeast Texas and the Louisiana border, locating towns (San Felipe de Austin, Brazoria, Nacogdoches, etc.), Austin’s Colony, roads, rivers, Caddo Lake, Sabine Lake, Galveston Island, etc. Peters (America on Stone, p. 280) comments on the lithographers: “The Mesiers produced an enormous mass of lithographed sheet music at 28 Wall Street, but there are also other prints of interest.... They were important, early, and their work is scarce and almost always of interest.”
    One of the more interesting and controversial of the colonization companies, the Galveston Bay & Texas Land Company energetically promoted lands between the San Jacinto and Sabine Rivers. At five cents an acre, naturally sales were brisk. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the colonists, Mexico had put into effect the Law of April 6, 1830, prohibiting further Anglo colonization in Texas. When the immigrants, who were mostly Europeans, arrived in Texas, Mexican officials refused to allow them to settle. The hoodwinked colonists were permitted to build huts and plant gardens but were left on their own to try to acquire land holdings.
    This is one of the primary documents that led to considerable confusion among “purchasers” of the company’s land. Despite the impressive look of the document and the handsome little map, the only consideration the purchaser of it received was the privilege of locating a labor of land; the land then had to be subsequently purchased in one of the grants given to Vehlein, de Zavala, or Burnet. This is an early shot in a barrage of printed materials filled with accusations, recriminations, apologias, and defenses by both the company and its critics. See: Barker, Life of Austin, p. 298; The Handbook of Texas Online (Galveston Bay & Texas Land Company); Williams, The Animating Pursuits of Speculation.

One of Ten Signed & Numbered Large-Paper Copies

24. GRABHORN PRESS. SCAMMON, L[awrence] N[orris] (artist) & Jean Chambers Moore (author). Spanish Missions California: A Portfolio of Etchings by L. N. Scammon Dedicated to Albert M. Bender, a Constant and Loyal Friend. San Francisco: [Grabhorn Press for] Jean Chambers Moore, 1926.

Title printed in red and black, 11 sheets folded to 4-page folders, the first bearing the title and limitation, each of the remaining 10 folders with individual title, brief text, and original etching of a mission, each etching approximately 14.8 x 17.7 cm (5-7/8 x 6-7/8 inches), each etching signed in pencil by Scammon. Folio (45.5 x 31 cm; 17-7/8 x 12-1/8 inches), publisher’s vellum boards with gilt lettering on upper cover (expertly and sympathetically rebacked in purple levant morocco, after the original in purple satin), portfolio lined in gold silk (which is cushioned beneath with felt), purple silk tabs. Other than very minor staining to vellum, a fine, well-preserved large-paper copy, the etchings and text superb. This special limited edition is a fairly early and very rare Grabhorn Press item.

    Limited edition, one of ten signed and numbered copies (A7) specially bound and printed on Whatman handmade paper (of an edition of 400). Grabhorn 82: “Etching of the first ten missions, briefly described in order of their founding.” Weber, California Missions, p. 88. The artist, Lawrence Norris Scammon (1872-1947), was a Berkeley graduate, sketched the Oakland hills, taught privately, and worked as a designer for Roberts Manufacturing Company in San Francisco. Scammon was part of the circle of Bay Area artists known as The City Rises. These artists preferred realistic depictions, rather than the merely quaint or picturesque. In this vein, the present portfolio is important beyond its aesthetic appeal, its demonstration of the artist’s technical skill in etching, and the allure of a rare and beautiful Grabhorn printing. Scammon shows the missions as they actually looked at the time of publication, often before complete restoration was done, making these image an invaluable historical and architectural record. Scammon’s father was the sea captain and naturalist Charles Melville Scammon (1825-1911), who wrote Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of North America (San Francisco, 1874).

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